By: Anna Eastland
It’s funny that what people so often emphasize about babies is how much work they are. How they will take over your life and make it difficult. How they should generally be avoided in order to live a life of comfort and success.
But I can honestly say that the hardest thing I ever did was not have a baby.
At least not have one to take home after labour. Having to leave the hospital empty-handed after 9 months of hopeful expectation was devastating. Heart-breaking. Soul-wrenching. All that. Not easy. So when a well-meaning older friend said to me, after I lost my daughter due to a cord accident in labour, “Well, you already have five kids…maybe this will be easier for you,” you can understand why I responded with shocked silence. “She has no idea at all what I’m feeling…”
Sometimes people think that children are like possessions, and once you’ve had a few the rest are all the same. That they are like high-maintenance pets…and that really, it’s ridiculous to have more than one or two parrots or chihuahuas. But in my experience, being involved in bringing forth new life becomes more amazing and miraculous each time. As your other children grow, you realize the unique depths of their personality and wonder how it is you could help create a whole person, who is as the saying goes, “a universe unto themselves.”
This awareness of the preciousness of life increases even more intensely after loss.
You realize that life is not a thing to take for granted, but a fragile gift. You appreciate more what you have been forced to let go. All challenging things like night wakings and lack of sleep dwindle in importance compared to the deafening silence of lying awake at night, pining for the child of your womb, and not having the comfort of that warm, intimate snuggle as you nurse them back to sleep.
My daughter Josephine’s little foot as I dressed her for burial.
The factor that people forget when they think babies are too much work is love. A person in love is capable of crossing mountains and forging raging rivers. A person in love wants to stay awake staring in wonder at her beloved. A person in love wants to give herself completely, wants to sacrifice, wants to do everything to make her loved one happy and safe. This kind of work is far easier than stress of trying to put your heart back together after it has been shattered by loss. Picking up the shards and trying not to cut your trembling fingers on the sharp glass.
Living with the emptiness of a baby who is not there in your arms, even though he fills each molecule of your body and soul…
So to everyone who is struggling in taking care of a baby, with all its legitimate challenges, know that your work is worth it. That it’s a sacred task of great dignity and importance. That it will make you stretch and grow in ways you couldn’t imagine, and will help you become a better person. And for those who are struggling with loss, whose precious little ones have left far too soon, I am with you in your deep sorrow and abiding pain, and wish you peace, healing and hope. Know that miracles do happen. That they are happening every day, and as much a a tragedy has come to you, so could a miracle…so don’t give up on life. We have had two miracles in our home since our loss, but those are stories for another time.
Please believe me, there is still beauty and joy to be found, and when it’s hard to carry on for yourself, do it for your little one. Make them proud until you meet again.
Anna Eastland is a Canadian author, blogger and mother of 8. Her first book, “Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood,” is an anthology affirming the dignity and importance of motherhood. After losing her daughter Josephine in labour three years ago, she felt a passionate call to reach out and connect with other babyloss moms. One way she has expressed her own sorrow has been through poetry, and last year she published “unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope,” to share her experience with others.